Occult Yorkshire: Fabian Family Secrets and Cultural Engineering in the UK (Intro)

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?”

To read the full article (& rest of this series), order The Vice of Kings: How Socialism, Occultism, and the Sexual Revolution Engineered a Culture of Abuse.

Introduction: Glamor Vice

Who in today’s world has the courage to write for truth and justice? Who is willing to be that square?

It’s easy enough to write about things that don’t directly concern us; or about things that do concern us but that people want to hear, good things that we will be loved and admired for sharing. But what about the things we have been trained, from the inception of self-awareness, not to speak about? The things we are socially bound to keep hidden? To talk or write of these things is to break an unspoken contract of silence, a contract we never consciously agreed to, and one we never had the option of consciously refusing.
This is the thing no one wants to do.

It’s also the thing that most needs to be done. Because until the agreement not to speak, write, or even think about certain things is broken, our speaking, writing, and thinking will be strangled by the fear, conscious or not, of breaking that contract: of expressing the unspeakable. At which point, the social support system which we have relied on for our whole lives, and on which the survival of our identity depends, will no longer support us. We will be cut loose, and set adrift on a cold, dark, and unforgiving sea of broken meanings.
If I write this, it’s not because I want to; it’s because I have to.

*

“I too found my inner child some years ago—and had an abortion.”
—Sebastian Horsley, 2004, private correspondence

My brother, self-proclaimed “dandy in the underworld” Sebastian Horsley, was an artist most celebrated for his potentially (and in the end actually) self-destructive pursuits. A recent Time Out article listed him as one of London’s top ten drug-users; another 2014 piece about the Hollywood actor Shia LeBeouf wrote that my brother “convincingly made his own fatal self-destruction a work of art.” That sentence speaks volumes. Who exactly did my brother’s artistic self-destruction convince, and of what? That suicide is a worthy artistic pursuit? Or that artistic expression (or fame) is worth destroying oneself for? What sort of legacy does such a “work of art” leave? How can someone compulsively driven to destroy themselves be turned into a cause for celebration?

I am one of two people still living (along with my sister, a psychotherapist) with close inside knowledge of the forces that drove my brother to self-destruct. As such, one thing is painfully clear to me: whatever “message” my brother conveyed, via his life and death, it is not a true message but a fiction: a cover story that covers a legion of sins. Ironically, it covers them not with an illusion of virtue, as in the much more famous case of Jimmy Savile, but with a dandy’s parade of glamorized vice. It’s my belief that Sebastian Horsley’s “art” was not self-destruction but the elaborate concealment of the social, cultural, and domestic forces that made his destruction inevitable. I think it shows how the abused is programmed by abuse, not only to protect his abusers, but to perpetuate the abuse.

Nor is my comparison to Savile entirely random. As I wrote in Seen and Not Seen, with his flamboyant outfits, bleached hair, jingle-jangling jewelry and bizarre persona, Savile was also a dandy. Like my brother, and like the Child-Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Savile wore top hats.  I doubt my brother ever emulated Savile, but at the same time it’s difficult to guess at Savile’s influence on us, growing up during the sixties and seventies. During that period Savile was considered the most influential man in British rock and roll, and my brother and I watched Top of the Pops every week, religiously. My brother’s first, and most lasting, role model was glam-rocker Marc Bolan, and in some ways Savile was an avatar of glam rock. Is it possible my brother could have learned some of his dandy-tricks from Savile? One of the most disturbing things about Savile was how open he was about his proclivities. He joked about them on TV and the radio (sometimes even with his victims present). He admitted to them in his autobiography. Yet nobody said anything.

The ongoing, seemingly unending revelations in the UK around the institutionalized sexual abuse of children have forced people to reevaluate what they know about how corruption works and what it looks like. Once upon a time, we looked for sexual predators lurking on street corners and outside schoolyards: shady, shifty characters malingering on the margins of society, easy to identify and even easier to scapegoat. In Post-Savile Britain, such a simple view is a luxury of ignorance. The real predators are in positions of power and access; they aren’t marginal characters or outsiders, but the pillars of our community. Far from unwittingly exposing themselves by their shifty looks and guilty demeanors, they seem devoid of the self-awareness necessary for guilt. They don’t give any of the “tells” we count on to alert us that someone is up to no-good. In their own eyes, they are entitled to act the way they do. It is the power of privilege, and the privileges of power.

It’s my view that the qualities for which my brother’s self-destructive life and art (his artful self-destruction) are being celebrated were not the unique expressions of a creative soul, but symptoms of a fatally traumatized psyche. They were his desperate public attempt to get free of a cultural and familial morass, a struggle that, ironically and tragically, was embraced by that same culture as “art.”
sebastian2

*

“If someone were to set up a production in which Bette Davis was directed by Roman Polanski, it could not express to the full the pent-up violence and depravity of a single day in the life of my family. It was a foul octopus from whose tentacles I would never quite escape.”
Dandy in the Underworld

To read the full article (& rest of this series), order The Vice of Kings: How Socialism, Occultism, and the Sexual Revolution Engineered a Culture of Abuse.

25 thoughts on “Occult Yorkshire: Fabian Family Secrets and Cultural Engineering in the UK (Intro)”

  1. Wow. What a work. Admittedly I only made it about 1/2 the way in because of…lessee…erm, my own personal situation with writing about “the bad stuff.” But I’m hooked. Thank you.

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  2. It takes courage to write about these things publicly. While I’m not happy that your family struggled with these deep challenges, I enjoy reading about them from your perspective. I think one person’s healing can often help others to heal, which is one of the reasons for you to write about this topic I imagine.
    From what I understand it has been several years since your brother’s passing. Still, I also just wanted to say that I’m sorry for your loss.

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  3. Thank you, and to everyone who’s commented. I realized once I added the images to this piece that I have moved from wanting to expose my brother to wanting to avenge him, tho of course that word is a bit more loaded than I’d like.
    Let’s just say show the true meaning that his life had. & so I am still processing the loss of him, not just through his senseless death but in his life also.

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    • Yes, I had also meant to imply the loss of him in life. Still, every life has it’s own meaning and every life is sacred. Not that it had to be that way, and I do think it’s tragic, but that once the totality of one’s life can be accepted as is we bypass the need for conflict – internal and external.

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  4. Of course you’re going to get around to explaining what your late brother meant by”latent violence” in your family, and why he compared his childhood environment to a “foul octopus” — was he grandstanding, joking, playing to his public, tapping into an existing fascination with depravity, just playing his role as a performing nihilist ?
    Or did he mean it —

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  5. He meant it, as a true visceral response, I think, yet of course the memoir exaggerated everything. I was struck by it myself recently, what WAS he referring to? Consciously he was referring to the alcohol and wife-swapping, but for an avowed amoralist and heroin addict, that doesn’t really add up to a “foul octopus” (tho it might well be to a child). He also referred to his childhood as “magical,” which I think ties into the Prisoner of Infinity dissociation theme, maybe…

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  6. Interesting. You will always be my nephew. You are entitled to your point of view. I am sad that you try to besmirch the virtue of the Fabian Society which has a long standing history of left wing research as its motivating force. I don’t recall anything in Talbot Lodge in my youth about the Fabian Society in Hull. Alec certainly was a member of the Labour Party until 1949 when he left Hull City Council because it was always too rigid in its outlook – and he accused it of its own corruption. The Fabian Society didn’t feature in his life. I can’t speak about your father Nick as I wasn’t close to him – he was 8 yeares older than me but I doubt if he had much to do with it at all. Your uncle Jefferson

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    • Thank you for commenting.

      Fabian Society (Hull Branch)
      The Fabian Society was established in 1884 as a socialist society committed to gradual social reform rather than revolution. The Society joined with the trade union movement to found the Labour Party in 1900. It remains an influential left of centre think tank. A branch was established in Hull in November 1943, with 16 members, including Commander Harry Pursey (elected as Labour MP for Hull East in 1945), and a committee chaired by local businessman Alec Horsley. Its main activities included organising public meetings, ‘Brains Trusts’ and film shows, as well as providing practical help to local Labour parties and their candidates during elections.

      http://www.hullhistorycentre.org.uk/discover/hull_history_centre/our_collections/politics_and_pressure_groups/politicalcampaigns.aspx

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  7. Your perspective on the not speakable is absolutely on point. I relate to your understanding of your experience in so many ways, visceral, somatic, emotional and psychological because the unspeakable was omnipresent in my and my sisters’ childhoods and in the childhood of my wife and her siblings. I have been wrestling with this for my lifetime.
    Thank you for sharing and for daring to make connections between institutionalized abuse and those in power who found such institutions often to legitimize their power and ability to exploit their environment and the people in it to the fullest extent that their fancy takes them. That is the fundamental base-meaning of the extolled cultural virtue of ‘profit maximization.’
    We, the members of this culture, have almost universally accepted the righteousness of power in the hands of the powerful and, concomitantly by necessity of that acceptance, the subjugation and/or exploitation of everything else on the planet by the powerful, including the planet’s flora and fauna, the land, the water, and people regardless of age.
    At our core we are members of the exploiter. And we will remain both the exploiter and exploited until truth and reconciliation is made to the truth of ourselves as keepers of the brutality, too.
    This article is a great start.

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    • Thanks egajd, that’s a great confirmation message. I think it’s not at our CORE, however, that we are aligned with the exploiter. The core surely is pristine and infinite, pure awareness. But at a deep level of defense of that core, we seem to have aligned. The mistake being perhaps that what is pure and foundational cannot be violated, does not need defending.

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      • Jasun
        People are praising you everywhere I look and it’s highly justified. You are helping a lot of us climb the barriers of the unspeakable – you provide a forum and also the tools we need to dismantle many taboos that keep us silent about abuse we either suffer or witness.
        Over on your other forum I’ve left a comment that seems to say the opposite about a situation where I was a witness to child abuse. Except that wasnt exactly the case: I suspected it and in my attempts to deal with living next door to it, I got sucked into a world of punishment, pain and paranoia.
        We need language to talk about all the moral shadings in these cases, and all the ways feelings and perceptions and reactions get repressed when we live by the rules instead of our instincts . Self censorship is stopping us from evolving on so many levels.
        It’s good to read the signs: “Trespassers will be prosecuted.” Sometimes our feet walk us into places we have to talk ourselves out of afterwards.
        I’ve been remembering what I learned in school about Fabians because at 13 I became a Marxist. Odd for a pubescent girl. I became enamored with VI Lenin although it really started with Ilya Kuryakin – i started learning Russian. Its hard to eroticize men with big smelly beards but I read The Communist Manifesto and wrote a book report on it. Who had gotten to me to make me so passionate about revolution? What were they putting in kids’ heads?
        Fabian socialism was something the books skipped over to get to the Bolsheviks. Nobody I knew was ever a “Fabian” – but there were Maoists and Trotskyites and anarchists – it was much cooler to be hardline and violent. When I went to school, that is.
        Now I realize the Fabians were there but they were the elite masterminds, invading the sciences and professions – where they studied ways of better controlling humans without our knowing. They set the agendas and studied the results, never saying what they were really thinking. Which was of ways to control, exploit and eliminate the rest of us.
        Do you agree?

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  8. As happens I just read this in Fabian Freeway:

    “Whether Shaw was ever personally acquainted with Karl Marx is not recorded. He could hardly have failed to see the ponderous Prussian in the reading room of the British Museum, where Marx was a fixture for nearly thirty years. Before and after joining the Fabians, Shaw, too, frequented the British Museum almost daily. There he read the first volume of Das Kapital in French and was vastly impressed by it; and there he became friendly with Marx’s daughter Eleanor, a dark, rather striking young Socialist, working as a copyist in the reading room for eighteen pence a day. It is hard to see how he could have avoided meeting her father—the more so because, throughout his long career, Shaw never displayed the least reticence about introducing himself to anyone he wished to know.
    Failure to mention meeting or even seeing a man whose work had impressed him so profoundly is a significant omission, especially on the part of a notorious name-dropper like Shawl He refers casually to having once met Frederick Engels, Marx’s alter ego who remained in London to edit the posthumous portions of Das Kapital until his own death in 1892.
    The possibility has been raised—and remains an interesting subject for speculation—that George Bernard Shaw, the self-styled mountebank with his Mephistophelian eyebrows and carefully cultivated air of diabolism, who in his later writings equated Jesus and Lenin, as spiritual leaders,(2) was commissioned by the fathers of Marxian Socialists to help found a select company for the propagation and defense of their Socialist views. Early in the game, Shaw confided to the German Socialist, Eduard Bernstein, that he wanted the Fabians to be “the Jesuits of Socialism.”(3)
    Any serious consideration of Fabian Socialism must allow for the very real possibility that Communists early saw their opportunity to introduce Communism into America through the Anglo-Saxon tradition: enter at stage Left, the Fabian Society!”

    Perhaps not a coincidence then that the FS was founded the same year Marx died (in London)?

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  9. So, Bolshevism for the masses, Fabianism for the secretive elite and its enlightened despots.
    I never realized until recently that ‘communism’ as an ideology and program was concocted to rule us more efficiently.
    But there have also been inspiring moments when people, collectively, have come together to overthrow oppressive regimes. It does happen sometimes. Spontaneously. Not often enough.

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  10. Part of what my grandfather & Bertrand Russell were involved with, with CND, was setting the template for “peaceful protest.” It began with Oxford alumni Gandhi, of course. Who had a Russell quote on his wall:
    ‘From this time forth till the Independence of the nation, three major influences could be felt throughout the land: British Evangelicalism, Italian and German Fascism, and Russian Communism. While people like Gandhi and Tagore were influenced by British Evangelicalism, Golwalkar and Hedgewar (RSS) were influenced by Fascism, and Bhagat Singh was influenced by Communism (though these influences had a unique blend with the Indian socio-historical experience). The non-violent and peaceful protest methods that Gandhi upheld had an immense impact on the conscience of the nation. Certainly, as Bertrand Russell noted (and his statement hangs emblazoned in Mahatma Gandhi’s home in Ahmedabad), “It is doubtful that the method of Mahatma Gandhi would have succeeded except that he was appealing to the conscience of a Christianized people.’
    http://domenicm.blogspot.ca/2010/11/the-war-of-kalinga-and-modern-religious.html

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  11. Hi Jasun,
    I am toying with the idea of translating your series into German and publishing them on my blog on “Allmystery”, the largest and most popular forum on conspiracies and fringe science in the German–speaking world. I am not a professional philologist and it would be a time-consuming effort for me.
    I just want to ask you if you would mind.

    Reply

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